- Several states are being slammed for misreporting or misrepresenting the number of coronavirus cases and testing data.
- The most notable example is Georgia, where some have accused the health department of misrepresenting testing data to support Gov. Kemp’s broad reopening.
- The agency has shared a number of misleading and even inaccurate pieces of information on its website. Most recently, it posted a graph that showed a decline in cases, but only because the dates were out of order.
- Other states that have started reopening, like Texas and Virginia, included antibody tests in their reports, which experts say skewed the data.
Georgia’s Graph Gaff
Several states, including those with some of the broadest and most aggressive plans for reopening, are being criticized for misrepresenting and misreporting their coronavirus testing data.
Already, there are significant discrepancies between how data is reported state to state.
But the reporting of testing data is crucial for both politicians and the public to accurately understand how the pandemic is impacting their state. With that information, they can make informed choices about public health, like whether or not to reopen.
Now, experts are worried that skewed data from poor reporting could lead some states to ease restrictions too fast. Others believe that may be intentional.
Georgia is perhaps the most notable example of a state that has been widely condemned for its practice concerning data reporting. The state’s Department of Public Health (DPA) has had numerous mishaps in the area, and was most recently accused of sharing a misleading graph.
The graph in question, shared on the DPA’s website just over a week ago, displayed the number of confirmed cases in the five most heavily hit counties over a range of two weeks.
At first glance, the graph appeared to show the number of cases declining steadily. However, after looking to the bottom axis of the graph— the x-axis— it becomes apparent that the dates of each county’s recorded cases are not in order at all.
The graph starts by going from April 28 to April 27, then to April 29. At one point it even jumps from May 7 to April 26, then back to May 3.
What’s more, the colored bars—which represent different counties— were also arranged in different orders on different dates, further contributing to the appearance that the graph was showing declining cases.
However, according to an analysis of that data by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, there was not actually such a strong downward trend.
“The data is still preliminary, and cases have held steady or dropped slightly in the past two weeks,” the newspaper reported.
The DPA eventually updated the graph, and Gov. Brian Kemp’s office issued an apology.
“The x axis was set up that way to show descending values to more easily demonstrate peak values and counties on those dates,” a spokesperson wrote on Twitter. “Our mission failed. We apologize. It is fixed.”
The x axis was set up that way to show descending values to more easily demonstrate peak values and counties on those dates. Our mission failed. We apologize. It is fixed.— Candice Broce (@candicebroce) May 11, 2020
The DPA, however, had a different explanation. A spokesperson told the AJC that the issue was due to an error in how it sorted dates.
Other Errors in Georgia’s Reporting
This was not the first time that Georgia’s health department has made a significant reporting error.
According to the AJC, observers have noted “sloppiness in case counts, death counts and other measures that are fundamental to tracking a disease outbreak.”
The AJC also reported that in recent weeks, issues with the department’s data “caused confusion over whether novel coronavirus deaths had topped 1,000,” and that “The agency erroneously posted at least twice that children died.”
While it could be argued that some of those errors can be written up as a simple mistake during a chaotic and unprecedented time, many feel the graph crossed a line. Some are even skeptical that it was an accident.
“I have a hard time understanding how this happens without it being deliberate,” said State Rep. Jasmine Clark, who has a doctorate in microbiology and molecular genetics. “Literally nowhere ever in any type of statistics would that be acceptable.”
As a result, some people are worried that the data is “being portrayed in a way that favors Kemp’s early easing of restrictions,” according to the AJC.
Georgia was one of the first states to implement a sweeping reopening plan that massively scaled back restrictions. Even President Donald Trump, who has been a vocal supporter of reopening, slammed Kemp for the move.
The decision was controversial, and now, Georgia is being closely watched for what happens next. In other words, there’s a big incentive to make the numbers look good.
As the AJC points out, there are other instances where the DPA has portrayed and represented data in questionable manners— especially when it comes to graphics.
For example, they have a map of the state that colors counties in shades of blue or red based on rates of infection. Recently, the health department changed the metrics so that the infection rate in a given county needs to be higher than it was before to be colored red.
“Based on the (key) they were using a couple weeks ago, a good third to a half of our state would show up as red right now,” said Dr. Harry Heiman, a clinical associate professor at the Georgia State University School of Public Health. “Because they keep moving the goalposts, if you will, it doesn’t look that way.”
Broader Issues With Methodology
The AJC also reported that another graph on the agency’s website “has led readers to think that cases were dropping dramatically, even though lower case numbers were the result of a lag in data collection.”
The lag in data is especially relevant because it speaks to a broader issue with the very core of the methodology the agency uses reports its data.
At first, Georgia recorded and reported coronavirus cases based on the testing date. Then, in late April, right when Kemp began to reopen the state, the DPA started reporting based on when people had symptoms.
“But because it can take weeks for case information to come in, the new method always appears to show that cases are declining, even if they are not,” the AJC reported, adding that the data lags caused by how the state records cases “mean that counts for recent dates are often a fraction of what they turn out to be when the data is more complete.”
As a result, experts have said that these daily numbers are actually a representation of what the case count was about two weeks earlier, meaning that the state’s current numbers are likely a reflection of the success the lockdown measures had.
Looking to Georgia
These data issues are highly concerning and potentially very dangerous for both the people of Georgia and the rest of the U.S.
Georgians use that data to make key decisions, and lawmakers use it to make decisions that impact millions of people in the state, but it also goes beyond that.
“Wrong information about Georgia’s battle against COVID-19 is already shaping the way the public sees the state,” the AJC wrote.
Because of that information, many have been praising Kemp’s actions and using the state as an example and evidence for reopening.
For example, in a May 8 article, the Wall Street Journal dubbed Kemp’s plan the “Georgia Model,” and used it as evidence that lockdowns are unnecessarily harming the economy.
Other States With Data Problems
Georgia, however, is not the only state with data reporting problems.
Texas, which has arguably the broadest plan for reopening, has also shifted its testing metrics recently in a way that has problematized reporting.
“The Texas Department of State Health Service now includes antibody tests — which can detect whether a person previously recovered from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus — in its daily testing totals,” the Texas Tribune reported last week.
But as the Tribune notes, that practice makes it impossible to tell how many tests show active infections versus previous infections. That is not the only problem with combining the data from antibody tests and traditional nasal-swab tests.
It also artificially inflates both the number of tests the state says it has done and falsely improves its positivity-rate, which compares the number of people who have tested positive to the total number of people tested.
Experts have said that merging these two very different data sets basically makes a positivity-rate data unusable.
That is quite significant because increased testing and decreasing positivity rates are two of the main factors that states have used as evidence to justify reopening. Like Virginia, which until last week used both traditional and antibody tests in its case count, but stopped after receiving backlash.
The misrepresentation of data also goes beyond testing. According to reports, when it first began easing restrictions, Florida tried to suppress county coroners from releasing coronavirus death counts.
See what others are saying: (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) (Business Insider) (Vox)
George Floyd’s Family Calls for First-Degree Murder Charge and Arrests of Other Officers
- The former officer who was seen on video pressing his knee into the back of George Floyd’s neck has been charged with Third-degree murder and manslaughter.
- Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman said he expects the three other fired officers who were at the scene to be charged, but felt Chauvin’s case was important to handle first.
- Floyd’s family issued a statement calling for a First-degree murder charge instead, as well as the arrest of the other officers.
- New footage of the incident also circulated online, showing how close those other officers were to Floyd during the arrest.
Chauvin Arrested and Charged
After days of violent protests and widespread demands for justice, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged for the death of George Floyd.
Chauvin was fired Tuesday, along with three other officers involved in the detainment of Floyd, with Chauvin specifically identified as the man who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
Chauvin and the other officers detained Floyd in handcuffs Monday after he allegedly used a counterfeit bill at a convenience store. But outrage grew after video of the arrest was released, which showed 46-year-old Floyd, who was unarmed, repeatedly stating that he couldn’t breathe as the officer held his position. Floyd eventually lost consciousness and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Chauvin was taken into custody Friday morning, according to Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington. A short time after that news broke, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that Chauvin was charged with Third-degree murder and manslaughter.
“We entrust our police officers to use certain amounts of force to do their job to protect us. They commit a criminal act if they use this force unreasonably,” he said.
Freeman also said he anticipated that charges would come against the other three officers, however, he said, “We felt it was appropriate to focus on the most dangerous perpetrator. This case has moved with extraordinary speed.”
Freeman said that the criminal complaint would be completed and available later in the day. As of now, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and the FBI are both investigating Floyd’s death.
If convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, Chauvin would face up to 25 years in prison on the first charge and up to 10 years on the second.
Third-degree murder means an offender did not intend to kill, but that someone died “by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.”
For this reason, many are unsatisfied with the level of the charge. Others are calling for all officers involved to face repercussions and are frustrated by all of the pleading and widespread calls for justice that it took for charges to come in the first place.
Floyd Family’s Response
The family of George Floyd seems to share a similar opinion. They responded to news of the charges in a statement shared by their attorney, Benjamin Crump.
In it, they said the arrest was a “welcome but overdue step on the road to justice.” However, they added that they expected and want a First-degree murder charge.
“We call on authorities to revise the charges to reflect the true culpability of this officer,” the statement continued.
The family also noted that the other officers should also face consequences as well. “For four officers to inflict this kind of unnecessary, lethal force – or watch it happen – despite outcry from witnesses who were recording the violence – demonstrates a breakdown in training and policy by the City.”
“We fully expect to see the other officer who did nothing to protect the life of George Floyd to be arrested and charged soon.”
New Video Angle
Also on Friday, details from the medical examiner’s report were released.
“Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease,” said the complaint from the Hennepin County Attorney. “The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death,” it added.
New video also appeared on social media that appears to better show just how close those other officers were during the arrest, according to CNN and NBN News. In it, two of the officers appear to be kneeling, though it’s unclear if they are placing their knees on Floyd’s body or on the ground.
The footage was filmed from the opposite side of where the more widely viewed footage featuring Chauvin was captured. It has further pushed the argument that the officers were complicit in his death and should be charged accordingly.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times)
Twitter Places Warning on Trump and White House Tweets for “Glorifying Violence”
Photo by Doug Mills-Pool
- President Trump tweeted about protestors in Minneapolis Thursday night, warning that he will call for more control of the demonstrations and adding, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
- That phrase was used in 1967 by Miami Police Chief Walter Headley when describing his plans to crack down on protests in black neighborhoods, and it was considered to have contributed to the city’s race riots in the late 1960s.
- Twitter placed a warning on the post containing the phrase for “glorifying violence,” however, the tweet is still visible because the platform says it may be of public interest.
- Users cannot comment, retweet, or like the post, but retweets with comments are still permitted.
What Did Trump Tweet?
Twitter placed a warning label over a tweet from President Donald Trump after determining that it violated its rules about “glorifying violence.” Many view the move as the latest escalation of tension between Trump and the social media platform.
The tweet flagged was the second in a two-part thread about the ongoing protests in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was pinned down by a white police officer who pressed his knee over Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
In the first tweet, the president says he “can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis.” That comment was seemingly in reference to reports of looting, fires, and violence happening during demonstrations. Trump then slammed Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, uring him to control the situation otherwise he will send in the National Gaurd.
However, his most controversial comments came in the second post, where he said: “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
Of course, many were frustrated with the president’s characterization of protestors as “thugs,” but Twitter’s issue with the post centered around the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
History Behind the Phrase
That phrase was used in 1967 by Miami Police Chief Walter Headley to describe his department’s plans to crack down on protests in black neighborhoods.
At the time, he said, “We don’t mind being accused of police brutality,” adding “They haven’t seen anything yet.” He also characterized black protestors as “young hoodlums who have taken advantage of the civil rights campaign.”
When giving those statements, Headley also claimed that his department hadn’t faced any series problems with “civil uprising and looting” because he let word filter down “that when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
That comment was met with a ton of outrage and according to The Washington Post, the phrase was considered to have contributed to the city’s race riots in the late 1960s.
In response to Trump’s use of the phrase, Twitter hit the post with a warning which notifies users that the tweet violates its rules against “glorifying violence.”
Twitter did not remove the tweet, as it typically forces users to do under the policy. That’s because, in the past, the company said there is a higher standard when it comes to taking action against messages from world leaders.
Instead, Twitter added in its warning that it “may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.” However, users are unable to like, reply, or retweet the post. Retweets with comments are still possible.
In a statement about their decision, Twitter reiterated that notice saying: “We’ve taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts, but have kept the Tweet on Twitter because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance.”
White House Shared Trump’s Tweet
Despite Twitter’s actions, the official White House Twitter account quoted Trump’s original tweet with the same text Friday morning.
That tweet was met with the same warning label as Trump’s initial
The White House later shared another post defending the president, arguing that he did not glorify but instead condemned violence. It also tagged Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and said his site’s “biased, bad-faith ‘fact-checkers’ have made it clear: Twitter is a publisher, not a platform.”
Escalating Tensions Between Trump and Twitter
Twitter’s decision to mark the tweets came after the platform took similar action earlier this week, placing a fact check warning over one of the president’s posts for the first time ever.
In that post, Trump falsely claimed that increased access to mail-in voting will lead to extensive voter fraud, despite the fact that experts say voter fraud in the U.S. is incredibly rare.
Trump criticized the warning Tuesday, accusing the company of stifling free speech and by Wednesday said he planned to “strongly regulate” or “close down” social media platforms.
Then on Thursday, Trump signed an executive order that seeks to limit the legal protections under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which generally protects social media companies from liability for the content posted on their platforms.
After catching wind of Twitter’s latest warning message, Trump threw out more criticism of the platform for allegedly targetting conservatives.
He closed that post with another mention about changing Section 230 and later quoted comments from others speaking in his defense.
Trump later responded to backlash over his looting and shooting statement, saying he doesn’t “want this to happen, and that’s what the expression put out last night meant.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Fox News) (NBC News)
CNN Crew Released From Police Custody After Being Arrested While Reporting Live in Minneapolis
- A CNN crew that was arrested while covering George Floyd protests in Minneapolis has been released from Minnesota State Patrol’s custody.
- Reporter Omar Jimenez, producer Bill Kirkos, and photojournalist Leonel Mendez were detained live on air after asking officers where they should move their setup. CNN says officers arrested them for not moving when told to.
- Minnesota State Patrol tweeted that it released the three upon confirming that they were members of the media in a statement that has received a lot of public criticism.
- CNN says the crew identified themselves as journalists before they were arrested. A CNN reporter also noted that Jimenez, who is black and Latino, was arrested while another white CNN reporter in Minneapolis had little to no issues with police.
CNN Crew Arrested
CNN reporter Omar Jimenez is back on the field after Minnesota State Patrol officers arrested him and his crew while covering protests over the death of George Floyd.
Jimenez and two other crew members were arrested early Friday morning. The incident happened live on air and quickly spread across social media.
Officers were moving to clear an area of downtown Minneapolis when Jimenez asked them where he and his crew should relocate.
“We can move back to where you like. We are live on the air here,” he told the officers, according to footage of the arrest. “Put us back where you want us. We are getting out of your way.”
Jimenez identified himself as a reporter and told the officers he was reporting live. As he was asking the officers where the crew should relocate, he was put in handcuffs.
“Do you mind telling me why I’m under arrest, sir?” Jimenez asked before he was walked out of the scene. Moments later, producer Bill Kirkos and photojournalist Leonel Mendez were arrested as well and taken into police custody.
At one point, it appears that an officer walks away with the camera angled towards the ground. That individual then places it on the group, seemingly unaware that it was still rolling.
CNN Crew Released
The crew was covering the third night of protests over the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a police officer pressed his knee to his neck for at least eight minutes.
The protests have become increasingly violent as calls for charges against the officers involved in Floyd’s death continue. Some buildings and shops have been vandalized or looted. A police precinct was also set ablaze.
The three CNN staffers were released after a few hours. Jimenez posted a photo of him back in front of the camera in Minneapolis.
“We’re doing okay, now. There were a few uneasy moments there,” Jimenez told CNN.
According to CNN, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz apologized for the incident to the network’s Worldwide President Jeff Zucker Friday morning.
Walz said he “deeply apologizes” for what happened and is working to have the team released from custody immediately.
Walz described the arrests as “unacceptable,” said the crew clearly has the right to be there. He added that he wants the media to be in Minnesota to cover the protests.
Anger at Minnesota State Patrol
According to CNN, Jimenez, Kirkos and Mendez were arrested because they were asked to move and did not.
Minnesota State Patrol sent out a tweet on Friday morning explaining that “in the course of clearing the streets and restoring order” they arrested four people, three of whom worked for CNN. They claimed that they released the trio upon learning they were members of the media.
However, CNN called this statement “inaccurate” because officers were made aware that the three were members of the press before they were arrested.
“Our CNN crew identified themselves, on live television, immediately as journalists,” a tweet from CNN Communications claimed.
The Minnesota State Patrol’s claim that they released the crew once they were confirmed to be reporters was met with backlash online. CNN anchor Jake Tapper responded to the tweet saying “they were live on air the entire time.”
“That’s not what happened. This is a lie,” Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Ava Duvernay tweeted. “We all saw it. This spin is erroneous and disingenuous.”
Others noted that Jimenez, who is black and Latino, was arrested while other white CNN reporters had little to no issues with police.
“My other colleague @joshscampbell is also on the scene in Minneapolis,” said CNN correspondent Abby Phillip. Phillip says that when Campbell told officers he was with CNN, they responded with. “Ok, you’re good.”
“It’s just impossible not to note the difference,” said CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota. “Since the police didn’t give us much of an explanation for what they were doing against the backdrop of these fires burning and George Floyd’s death, it’s impossible not to note the difference here.”